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Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’ Remarkable Transdrama ‘Mutt’ – Deadline

While trans rights are now the subject of a simmering culture war in America and the UK, that conflict is largely based on the rising visibility of trans women at a time when self-ID is controversially becoming the norm. However, stories about trans men often go under the radar, and this remarkable New York debut by Chilean-Serbian director Vuk Lungulov-Klotz helps to redress that imbalance. With a perfect performance by the Puerto Rican/Greek actor Lío Mehiel, best known for the Apple show so far We crashed and a number of short films, submitted to the US Dramatic Competition Mutt feels like an important but – for reasons that will be explained – perhaps interstitial film in the history of LGBTQ+ cinema, fully aware of the fact that it is set and made in an in-between that evokes the existential sense of limbo of reflects the main character.

The strength is that it goes for micro over macro. A recent comparison would be Eliza Hittman’s 2020 sighting hit on Sundance Never Rarely Sometimes Alwaysbut if we want to get really fancy, then maybe early ’70s John Cassavetes – before he made his controversial foray into the genre with The murder of a Chinese bookmaker — would be equally appropriate, as it’s a full-color, free-form character study that takes place over a loose 24-hour period.

Unexpectedly, trans director Lungulov-Klotz leans hard on his subject and opens the film with trans man Feña (Mehiel) running into ex-boyfriend John (Cole Doman) in a crowded bar. The encounter is awkward, especially when John introduces her to a cousin who asks, “Do you have a dick now?” Feña says no, and part of the reason for that Mutt interstitial is that in the world of the film, as in real life, much has yet to be explained (and will be) about Feña’s sexual identity. At one point, Feña snaps, “Loving men doesn’t make me a woman, okay?” and nothing illustrates this point more clearly than the fact that he willingly has casual sex with John, who is intrigued by his ex-partner’s changing body and, most importantly, still attracted to the person within him. (“It was complicated before,” John shrugs, “and we made it even more complicated.”)

The next morning, Feña wants to buy a morning-after pill, but is caught off guard by the arrival of his younger sister Zoe (MiMi Ryder), whose image of him has been tarnished by their estranged mother (“You left because you hate us,” she claims). It is the start of an eventful but never melodramatic day that ends with Feña picking up his Chilean father from the airport and driving him home, leading to a quietly emotional reunion that, like a portrait of two people trying to communicate over a unfathomable chasm, softly ringing and true without ever tugging at the heart.

As an introduction, Mutt works beautifully for those trying to understand the ever-evolving concept of gender fluidity, and it sure is brave of the non-binary Mehiel to tackle that subject in such a head-on, soul-baring way. The big question, however, is where Mehiel will go next and how cinema will adapt to find work for an intrepid talent who doesn’t fit too easily into boxes.

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